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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Biondi - No Clowning Around

Named after a famous Argentine clown (we had to ask), Fernando De Tomaso's Biondi is a great find in the 11th, an Argentine restaurant where non-meat items vie with the more obvious meats.  Working the room along with a couple assistants, Fernando De Tomaso, the chef and owner of La Pulperia (sadly, not yet reviewed here) has created a good vibe in a handsome space.  If I was going to open a bistrot, god forbid, this is pretty close to what my fabulous place would look like: stone walls, mirrors, wooden tables, a small tiled bar, an open kitchen -- a nifty combination of modern and rustic, kind of like the food.

On a nice Fall Friday evening, Co. and I pondered this carte, which unfortunately was all a la carte, my only real gripe of the evening.  As you should know by now, clicking on the image will actually make it readable, more or less:

After a spirited amuse bouche of poultry/porc terrine, accompanied by a basket of terrific country bread, Co. and I decided to play the paupers and split an entree, the poulpe a la braise-choux rouge, pomme de terre, Kalmata (16€).  Very nice.

Poulpe entree

Later in the evening, I noticed that one of the two young gentlemen sitting at the table to my right had a much larger portion, with some poulpe actually encroaching on the yang part to my yin.  I was pretty upset about that until I heard the words "double portion," which put me back at ease, although the wine ( a 27€ Bicicleta pinot noir) was doing a pretty good job of that anyway.

For the main dish, I opted for the chicken, or in more familiar terms, the volaille de bresse croustillant with betterave, epinard, and truffe de bourgogne (30€).  Bear in mind, I was interested in how this was prepared - chicken breast, thigh, bones, etc., but my bemused waiter took me aback by asking, 'what do you mean, how is it prepared?'  WTF?  Well, excusez-moi for asking, although I did learn that Bresse is an area of France near the Rhône-Alpes region.  Which also told me that the folks behind Biondi go to the market, including the Marche d'Aligre Beauvau off rue de Cotte, in the morning for fresh produce and vegetables.

At any rate, the chicken dish was first rate.  I was underwhelmed when it was brought to the table, but once into it, the little mountain of beets and spinach unraveled to reveal two pieces of chicken differently cooked   than the thin piece of breast that was more apparent.  Together, the combination was perfectly prepared and interesting.

Main dish - volaille, beets, spinach

Co., by contrast, a regular habitue of Buenos Aires, went with real meat - the wild boar dish - sanglier a la braise, chou rouge, and chataigne - accompanied by potatoes and the other items listed on the menu, including chimichurri, one of my favorite sauces and one of the main reason I go along for the ride with Co. to tango country, although it wasn't very evident in the dish (28€).

Now, bear in mind that the only time I've ever been around wild boar is when I attend sporting matches, only in those cases, boar is spelled boor.  Co., on the other hand, knows her sanglier, but not this time.  She had to ask the waiter if they hadn't made a mistake.  No, madame, was the answer, this was a special meat purchased at the market earlier in the day and 100% wild boar.  Don't get me wrong, Co. thoroughly enjoyed the dish, and discovered that, like snowflakes, not all wild boars are alike.

Main dish - sanglier, chou rouge, chataigne

For dessert, we went with the first two of three on the carte.  My nougat glace (8€) was hands down the best I've ever had, and I've had some pretty good ones over the years.  More nutty than fruity, and more copious than the photo suggests, plenty for Co. to test.  Co. had no complaints regarding the declinaison, which hit all the right notes (10€).

Dessert - an epic, homemade nougat glace

Dessert - declinaison de dulce de leche, glace, mousse

Even a la carte, the final price, including one cafe at the end, was more than reasonable, clocking in at 122€.  Biondi hits the spot on Amelot.  Relaxed atmosphere, but serious business, no clowning around.  And before I forget, you can reserve an upstairs room for a special party or two.

118 rue Amelot
75011 Paris
tel. 01 47 00 90 18

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Les Déserteurs - Still At the Top

I hate to repeat myself.  Having already reviewed Les Déserteurs a year ago, you may wonder why I bother to post about  Daniel Baratier et Alexandre Céret's Les Deserteurs, a restaurant in the 11th that they created after 'deserting' Le Sergent Recruteur (get it? from recruiter to deserter).  There's a simple answer to that question - it's really good.

Source: L'Hotellerie
After another terrific dinner with Co. a couple Friday evenings ago, I felt compelled to share some images of our six-course meal (60€).  So without further adieu, here they are.  Bear in mind, this is another one of those venues where nothing is listed on the carte and everything - since we are four years old - is a surprise.  So my limited descriptions are based solely on my wine-muddled memory.  As always, the menu changes regularly depending on the market, so it's not like you can go in and say, 'I'd like that pintade dish that Mortstiff had a couple weeks ago.' The upside is, chances are you'll get something even better.

Bruscetta with courgette, mint, and olive flakes

Eggs with pintade, mushrooms, and moules

Fera, poisson du lac, with flowers and peas

Volaille and gnocchi

Really good dessert 1

Really good dessert 2

I hope the photos speak for themselves (click on them and they will look even tastier).  Les Deserteurs is a highly recommended experience, from the fresh, creative, and precise dishes to Alexandre Céret's expressive and iinformative explanations.  A bit pricier than some of the venues reviewed here (you can order a more limited 45€ menu for dinner, and lunch is a more economic option with 28 € and 35 € menus that include a glass of wine and cafe), but well worth it.

46 rue Trousseau
75011 Paris

web: facebook page
Tél. : 01 48 06 95 85

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jean Chauvel's Restaurant 3B - On the Rise in Billancourt

Is it a brasserie? A neobistrot?  A cozy bar and lounge for a relaxing drink and aperatif?  Oui, oui, and oui. Jean and Nelly Chauvel's new establishment in the heart of Boulogne Billancourt is finally here, after a two-year hiatus following the sale of their Michelin-starred Les Magnolias in the Paris suburbs.  I'm not sure the name is the best choice, but it is quasi-efficient in a functional sense, highlighting the location (Boulogne Billancourt) and the more welcoming, low-key Brasserie aspect... not necessarily in that order.  The name misses the lounge and neobistrot pieces of a grander Gestalt, but perhaps you get the idea when you recognize that Jean Chauvel is the driving force of the enterprise.

The elegant new address boasts an accessible brasserie that is open all day long, Mon. - Sat., offering breakfast, lunch, or dinner highlighted by a lunch menu of 26€ (2 plates) or 34€ ( 3 plates).  Things get serious in the evening in the back room, offering high cuisine a la Les Magnolias.  There you have two options: a menu confiance priced at 76€ and a more formidable menu degustation at 98€.  Take the latter if you haven't eaten for a couple days; Co. and I found the lower-priced alternative to be more than ample, especially in light of M. Chauvel's penchant for bringing out surprises along the way.  In fact, it is all surprises for dinner - unlike the brasserie, which does actually boast a descriptive carte, the most you are told regarding the high-class dinners is 'you'll find out.' If you don't like surprises, stick to the brasserie.

I had a sneak preview of 3B back in March after accepting an invite to attend a pre-opening open house.  The Chauvel's have a lot of friends and the warm atmosphere sensed then has apparently carried over to the new restaurant.  It's the early days for the back room, but Co. and I were eager to try.

from the March open house
You don't find this much space in your typical Paris restaurant.  In the elegant back room, it's nice to know that you can have an intimate meal without revealing your secrets to the diners sitting at the next table.  Nelly Chauvel is present throughout, amiably overseeing the operation.  The wine list offers a number of reasonably-priced alternatives and thankfully is pared down from the monumental and overwhelming tome one was handed at Les Magnolias.  I don't know how much of the cave stayed at Les Magnolias when the Chauvels parted, but the current cave certainly is not lacking.  We opted for the 45€ Chateau Moulin Cantelaude 2009. 


And check out the size of  the kitchen - I want one like that.

The 3B kitchen

As for dinner, the menu confiance included some Les Magnolias souveniers along with some new inventive twists:

mise en bouche1

mise en bouche 2 - cucumbers

The homard entree - without question, a highlight

One of those surprises I was talking about - to accompany the homard, an amazing plate of Asian noodles covering some caille eggs, along with a sweet potato to drink

If you're familiar with Les Magnolias, this is probably a favorite - M. Chauvel's famous ham and cheese sandwich in a glass

For the main plate you choose - fish or meat.  This is meat (beef)

And this would be the fish - St. Pierre, along with anisette-flavored asparagus

A couple familiar accompaniments for the plate - the mustard macaroon and mashed potatoes - two more favorite carry-overs from Les Magnolias

A nice little cheese interlude leading up to dessert

Dessert, part 1

Dessert, part 2, and yes, that is mint-flavored cotton candy

A closer look at dessert, part 2

Overall, a great meal.  It would have been nice to see fewer Les Magnolias favorites - even though they are favorites - and some new novelties, especially for the main plates, which were more conservative offerings than I have come to expect from a Jean Chauvel kitchen.  It's early and it will be interesting to see how the restaurant evolves over the next year.  Unfortunately, I can't comment on the brasserie, though a friend who works in the bustling neighborhood mentioned that the place is plenty busy at lunch time.  Whichever option you choose, other than the bar and lounge - you should be attentive to the 3Rs - reserve, reserve, reserve.  It's going to get tough once word gets around.

Restaurant Jean Chauvel  
3B Brasserie Boulogne Billancourt
33 ave du General Leclerc
92100 Boulogne Billancourt

tel: 01 55 60 79 95

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TANNAT - Another Winner on Parmentier

I like the idea of naming one's restaurant after something related to food and not, say, the street address of the establishment.  The former is the case for Tannat, whose brave owners Ariane Stern and Simon Auscher had the tenacity to open about a half block from Chateaubriand, one of the top eating venues in all of Paris.  Tannat doesn't reach the heights of Chateaubriand, but it has its merits and is definitely worth its place on the map.  Getting back to names, as I digress, according to Wikipedia:

Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC, and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape".

Okay, I admit I didn't know what tannat meant until I looked it up, so maybe it's not such a great thing to name your restaurant after a food item that one has to google, but if you want to be a culinary snob, you have to do some work.  And as part of my work, I also learned that Tannat's home on 119 avenue Parmentier was for 20 years the site of "the fiery and gourmet cabaret evenings at Chez Raymonde," according to the Le Fooding website.  And just to clarify, Tannat is not a Uruguayan restaurant, but a place to find - oh, what the hell, Le Fooding was on a roll, "colorful neo-bistronomic creations from Olivier Le Corre (Tour d’Argent, Bristol, 52 Faubourg)."

Co. and I checked out Tannat on a Friday evening in mid-May and found an airy, brightly-lit, mirrored room centered by a bar where one can perhaps find a seat without a reservation.  Already this is pretty unique, because when I think of the typical Parisian neobistrot, the words 'airy' and 'brightly-lit' rarely come to mind.  Those adjectives are also appropriate to describe the colorful, elegantly prepared dishes, some of which were more successful than others, but what else is new?

One of my few gripes about Tannat is that everything is ala carte.  I can't remember the last time I ate in Paris without some sort of 'menu' deal offered.  In fact, more and more I am drawn to establishments with fixed menus - the tyranny of the carte as some critics claim.  But from my vantage point, I'd prefer to let the chef decide what is best, but you are free to differ.  To each one's own.  But if you like choice - albeit limited - you'll like Tannat.  So let's get down to business - the business of food.  Here's what the carte looked like during our visit:

What's on the menu?  Click on it to find out.

Another something you don't see very often in Parisian neobistrots is a selection of dishes to share at the start.  Be forewarned, though, the plates at Tannat are copious enough without taking one of the 'partager' dishes - I was pretty much stuffed early into my main plate - but as a reviewer, I felt obliged, with Co's hesitant blessing, to go with the radis et tandoori butter.  This was just okay - the butters were blander than I expected - something I probably would have enjoyed more to embellish some cocktails.  The thinly sliced bettrave was an interesting ingredient, however.

Radishes, beet, and tandoori butter for sharing

And the very satisfying entrees:

Pain perdu, asperge vert, moelle, gremolata for Co. - what is gremolata you ask? I'll tell you.  It's a chopped herb condiment with lemon zest, garlic, and parsley

Although tempted by the beets and herring dish, I selected this one - artichokes, coques, and sable parmesan

The main plates:

For Co., the beef, gambas, and navet unique melange.  Hard to see the thinly sliced beef, but its there. 

No idea I was ordering fish and chips, even though that's what the menu says, and that's what I got.  And when I say chips, I mean chips - not the British kind (fries), but the potato chips kind, even though this dish would make any obese Brit diner (which I am happily not) proud.  Not fantastic, but I rather enjoyed this very rich dish - and I just said rather with a British accent, so as not to offend anyone, I think.

Dessert time:

Killer presentation for the strawberry, rhubarb, and white chocolate dish

A chocolate dessert fit for a Marquise - not as rich as it looks, which made it even better

We accompanied our meal with a rapidly disappearing Coteaux du Languedoc Argentier (27 euros), bringing our bill, sans cafe, to 114 euros.  I liked Tannat a lot more than I thought I would, especially in retrospect.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the carte varies in the future, which isn't the wittiest way to end this post, but it will have to do.

119 avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris
tel. 09 53 86 38 61
useless website

Note:  Apparently you can overcome my fixed-price formula nit pick at lunch with a 15 euro two-dish meal, which sounds like a pretty good deal.  You can also take a nice little walk to the Canal St Martin after your dinner, which Co and I did - on this particular evening the streets were packed, the canal lined on both sides with YOUTH, and the intersection of Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon was happily animated, six months after tragedy struck.

The canal - a short walk from Tannat

Friday, May 6, 2016

Maloka - You Say Oka, I Say Maloka

I've got another good one for you, just don't ask me what it's name is.  The card says 'Maloka,' the bill says 'Maloka,' the website says "Maloka' and 'Oka' and the facade used to read 'Oka' but now shows 'Maloka.'  The server said 'Maloka.'  I'm going with 'Maloka.'  Maloka used to be Oka, okay?  Oka will soon be Oka again, but in another location (rue Berthollet in the 5th, starting next September), as a higher priced gastronomic Franco-Brasilian establishment (80 euros per person for 20 small tasting dishes).  Until then, you'll have to settle for (and continue to do so since it's not going away according to our server) the
'alma Brasileira' on rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th (36 euro menu for five courses).

The old facade
If you have followed the evolution of Daniel Rose's now famous Spring restaurant, you probably know that Maloka is situated at Spring's birthplace before the latter outgrew its success and moved to a roomier locale.  I never did get to Spring in those early years, but I did have a deja vu experience as I sat at our corner front table in Maloka.  Yes, I've been here before.  Indeed, it's a small world (but, in the words of the immortal Stephen Wright, I wouldn't want to paint it).  For about five minutes in early 2012, the setting used to house the mediocre La Vitrine, which Co. and I did visit.  I didn't care much for La Vitrine, but I really like Maloka, and I hope it doesn't disappear once Oka the sequel takes off.

As I've already sort of suggested, this is another one of those small 16-seater Paris restaurants that we all have come to love, if we ever are lucky enough to reserve in time - several prospective patrons were turned away at the door of Maloka during our Friday evening dinner which, because of a second serving, commenced at the ungodly early hour of 7 pm.  True, I remember eating dinner at 5 pm when I lived in the States (and then a post-dinner dinner when I was starving around 10 pm), but by European standards, 7 pm is pretty early.  On the other hand, the earlier hour meant we weren't rushed to finish to make way for the second service (a lousy policy that in the past ruined a perfectly excellent dinner at La Servan and a recent meal at Hero) .  Maloka is that kind of place - genial servers, good atmosphere, and as far as the food goes, some nice original flavors and ingredients.  This isn't a Brazilian restaurant per se - instead, carico chef Raphaël Rego infuses French dishes with Brazilian accents, such as guava, corn cream sauce, palm heart emulsion, verbana jus, cilantro, and feijao (puréed black beans). Not exactly your typical Parisian.

Here's what mine and Co's dishes looked like for our visit, offerings which are sure to change nightly according to chef Rego's inspiration:

A great start with four amuses bouche, topped off with a delicate pure sugar cane wafer

A rich coconut emulsion

This ceviche and wild flowers is a good example of the Delboeuf illusion in practice

Maigre fish, emulsion, and puree of patate douce

More fish for me as a meat alternative - cabillaud and black bean puree

Co's copious beef dish - definitely not an example of Delbouef

Stupendous dessert with fresh basilic

Whatever you call the restaurant - it's not Spring, it's not La Vitrine, and it's no longer Oka, this was a terrific meal for 36 euros per person plus another 36 euros for a bottle of a Brazilian cabernet (Aurora Reserva).


28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne
75009 Paris
useless website, don't bother
tel. 01 45 23 99 13
closed Sunday & Monday; open for lunch on Saturday

seen on the way to Maloka

still on the way to Maloka

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